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Entries in Film (3)

Monday
Feb292016

Oscars make you uncomfortable? Good

I have a love/hate relationship with Hollywood.

Because when my debut novel landed on the NYT bestseller list and stuck around for two years, I also landed my first film agent. She enjoyed my book. And she told me that she could easily sell the film option. But she also told me that a film would never get made—because my main characters were…Chinese, Japanese, and black.

I’ll pause to let that sink in for a moment.

***

Still with me? 

Okay, so was this agent racist? No, she was kind of awesome, actually. But she had the odious task of telling me, that by Hollywood standards, my baby was ugly.

I didn’t agree. So I signed with another agent. And in my search I found myself bouncing about Hollywood, spending time in very nice offices, with very nice producers, who all kept saying—and this is an exact quote: 

“How do we mitigate the financial risk without a white, male lead?”

Uncomfortable? Need to pause again?

***

I love the famously cantankerous writer, Harlan Ellison, and envisioned him leaping across the table and punching someone in the gullet. I imagined him lighting garbage fires in elevators and burning studios to the ground, then salting the smoldering ruins. I daydreamed as I grit my teeth and kept moving. 

And HOTEL was finally optioned, albeit briefly, to the founding CEO of Village Roadshow, a gentleman who was specializing in Asian markets at the time and who had helped finance Avatar and Marley & Me. I say briefly, because he passed away a year later (RIP Greg Coote).

So yes, there are opportunities in Hollywood. But they are buried in what Chris Rock so aptly described as “Sorority Racism.” And passive racism is still racism. Sins of omission, while not sins of commission, are still sins.

And to deny the racist, exclusionary, whitewashing reality of Hollywood is not just uninformed nonsense—it’s actually enabling this institutionalized behavior.

I guess what I’m saying is—if last night’s Oscars made you feel a tad uncomfortable—great! That means your empathy muscles are asking for a workout. 

You can do the easy thing and shut down those feelings, deny what they’re telling you, or you can put yourself in the shoes of Hattie McDaniel who was the first black woman to win an Oscar, but had to play a maid 74 times, or in the shoes of Dean Tanaka and Chloe Wang who had to change their names to Dean Cain and Chloe Bennett to find success—entirely up to you. 

I’ll pause again to let you think about it.

Wednesday
Apr012015

Hotel on the Corner of Hollywood and Vine: Vin Diesel cast as Henry Lee

After months of secret negotiations I'm happy to announce that HOTEL ON THE CORNER OF BITTER AND SWEET has finally been optioned by Hollywood mega-director, Justin Lin (The Fast & The Furious: Tokyo Drift) with Brett Ratner (Rush Hour, X-Men: The Last Stand) as executive producer.

Production begins this fall with Vin Diesel signing on to star in the iconic role of Henry Lee, both as old Henry (with a lot of make-up and special effects) and as a baldish, swaggering, tattooed young 12-year-old Henry. And in this big-screen adaptation, Henry trades in his little red wagon for a '67 Mustang Fastback that tears up the streets of Seattle's Chinatown.

At first I was a little nervous about the casting of Vin as Henry, but it turns out that he's a huge fan of the book, literally and figuratively.

The Hollywood Reporter even quoted him as saying: "This book has everything. Racial tensions. Familial conflict. A message of social justice. A timeless love story. Even a father and son element. All it's lacking is muscle cars and booty quake."

Plus, when I found out that the filmmakers had also cast Chiaki Kuriyama, who played Gogo Yubari in the Kill Bill films, as Keiko, I was sold. Literally, because a giant Brinks truck backed up to my house and dumped a pile of cash in my garage.

At that point I thought, "What the heck, I always wanted a gold-plated swimming pool in my back yard, BOO-YA, let's do this crazy thing!"

Monday
May162011

CAA, IPG, UTA, and other glittery Hollywood acronyms

I spent last Friday in Beverly Hills, wending my way from meeting to meeting—a veritable crash course in how challenging it is to sell a book in Hollywood.

Throughout the day I kept envisioning Harlan Ellison leaping across a conference table and decking some poor producer in Irwin Allen’s office. (This thought came up whenever someone would ask, “How are you going to mitigate the financial risk without a Caucasian lead character?”)

That being said, the amazing news is: I now have new representation in Über-agent Kassie Evashevski at (UTA) United Talent Agency. I absolutely adore her.

The bad news is: studios adore franchised sequels (Saw V), remakes (The Karate Kid), and TV shows turned into movies (The A-Team). So the odds of getting a film made are still about a million-to-one. But as Jim Carrey said in Dumb & Dumber, “So, you're telling me there’s a chance!”